May 01, 2020
May 01, 2020
Too many jobs still pay too little
The economy comes down to people: people who work, buy and sell. For too long, certain lawmakers and a handful of special interests have made policy to reward the well-connected while workers live hand-to-mouth and paycheck-to-paycheck. That low-pay economy left too many of us without savings or a way to sustain ourselves when COVID-19 hit. Those low-pay employers will try to take advantage of a workforce made up of people with no alternative when we re-open the economy.
Our elected representatives have a choice. They can put people first. They can ensure every employer pays working people a fair price for their labor. They can ensure every worker who gets sick can take time off. If someone loses their job, Ohio’s policymakers can make sure they can still make ends meet through unemployment support.
Policy Matters recommends four policies for a people-first economy:
Protect workers on the job with safety protocols and gear, careful re-opening of businesses that follows health officials’ guidance, and oversight.
Restore the minimum wage: Pass a minimum wage that covers the cost of living.
Quickly deliver unemployment benefits to working people displaced by the pandemic. Make permanent the current expanded eligibility for low income workers and excluded ride hail drivers.
Ensure all working Ohioans have access to emergency paid sick leave now, and earned sick leave going forward.
None of this will happen automatically. Ohio’s leaders must choose to change course. The people-first path is the only way we get through this together. The low-pay road leads working Ohioans to struggle and hardship. New employment data prove it.
Six of Ohio’s 10 most common occupations pay so little that the median worker supporting a family of three cannot cover the cost of food without SNAP benefits. Half of these jobs pay less than $24,000 at the median, and all but one pay less than $35,000. Workers in these 10 most common jobs number 1.18 million people and account for more than a fifth of all employed Ohioans.
As the coronavirus pandemic grips Ohio, working people in these jobs are on the front lines. Home health aides care for patients. Food prep workers, cashiers, stockers, and freight handlers hold open the supply lines for food, medicine and other necessities. These Ohioans continue to work, at their peril, to keep basic needs available to everyone. Other workers with one of the state’s most common jobs are out of work under Gov. DeWine’s stay-at-home order. Through no fault of their own, servers were sent home in March out of necessity, to keep them and others safe. Nearly 1 million Ohioans filed initial jobless claims in the five weeks ending April 18. For the single week ending March 14, a day before Gov. DeWine shuttered restaurants and bars, that number stood at 7,042. So many of these jobs have been halted that these occupations have likely been unseated from their place among the top 10.
On May 1, 1884, the Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions, a forerunner of the AFL, declared a legal work day to be eight hours. Two years later, on May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers walked off their jobs to demand just that: eight hours for labor, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what we will. Today, too many Ohioans are paid wages so low that they have to hold multiple jobs just to get by. Many are putting their health at risk to report to work amid a pandemic, but won’t get paid time off if they get sick. Due to segregation, workplace discrimination, unequal educational opportunities and other longstanding barriers, Black Ohioans and other people of color hold a disproportionate share of Ohio’s low-paying jobs.
Until recently, our state’s low unemployment rate and a myopic focus on a booming stock market masked the reality that too many Ohioans are working in jobs where they are paid too little. This has been true for a long time – and grown more so over a generation – but the coronavirus creates new kinds of precarity for workers already on the brink. Reporting to work in the midst of a pandemic is a frightening new reality for many workers. Others are out of work following the state’s stay-at-home order, and many still wait for their unemployment compensation to arrive. Some worry how they will cope if they or a family member falls ill; many lost health insurance when they were sent home from work. Ohioans now scramble to meet basic needs. Too many were paid too little to begin with.
Ohio Metro Areas (MSAs)The employment factsheets rely on data from the U.S. Department of Labor. The data are reported by the Department of Labor at the national, state, and Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). In order to better understand Ohio’s regional economy, we built the factsheets using the available MSAs. The U.S. Office of Budget and Management sets the MSA boundaries every ten years. Some of Ohio’s MSAs have changed since 2000. We note those changes fully here.
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